As the country gears up for the Republic of Ireland’s toughest test in years in the European Championships, a group of Inishowen lads are preparing for their dream trip to Poland to cheer on the boys in Green.
Today, Burnfoot man Jack Murray and three of his friends will be leaving Inishowen before boarding a plane to Berlin from Belfast on the first stage of their Euro dream trip. An avid Ireland fan, the young Sinn Fein councillor is no stranger on the terraces of Ireland games.
“I’ve been to most of the qualifiers,” explained Jack. “But this is the first time I’ve been to a major tournament. I was 4-years-old when Ireland last played in the Euros and I remember when they played in the World Cup last, I was doing my Leaving Cert.”
Jack says he and his friends are “very lucky” to get tickets to Ireland’s group stage matches of the competition.
“This is a dream trip we’re very lucky to get tickets. We plan to fly home the morning after the Italy game, but I don’t know what I’ll do if they get any further, I’ll have to see what Sinn Fein and the Credit Union have to say about that,” the Burnfoot man laughed.
“When you saw the draw for the competition, I thought we couldn’t really have got a tougher game, but if we can beat Croatia on Sunday, get a draw against Spain, we’ll have everything to play for against Italy. Ireland are a big game team and there will be so much support for them there it will be as if they are playing at home.”
The 26-year-old thinks the atmosphere at the matches will be electric.
“It was amazing at the qualifying matches so this is bound to be even better. There is already thousands of Ireland fans in Poland and it is expected about 20 - 25 thousand people will be showing up to back the boys in green.
“As well as that, there is so many people from around Inishowen going to Poland as well. I was out at the weekend and practically everyone I met was heading off as well. Between friends from college and friends from around Inishowen. I’m planning to meet up with about 30 people out there. I can’t wait the atmosphere should be brilliant.”
Jack is also looking forward to seeing new Republic star James McClean, and is hopeful he’ll get a chance to show his skills.
“I really hope James makes it into the team. He is a class player and has worked very hard to earn his right to wear his Irish shirt. He is a proud Irishman and I’d love to see him playing.”
But there is still plenty for the Irish fans who can’t make it to Eastern Europe next week.
“Every pub in Inishowen will be packed with people watching the matches. There is obviously huge interest and I think the publicans will be delighted to see people through the doors again. The Euros can hopefully help give everyone a bit of a boost.”